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Schwabacher's

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Labor day strike out

I was having a rather awful morning and decided to escape to the hills. I decided to go down to Lake Wohlford to seek solace and see if I could capture some pictures of birds. Nice trip and wouldn't burn up too much gas.

My buddy Big Dave, who is recuperating from a serious surgery, asked me "Why birds?" the other day and I really couldn't give him an answer.

Why not?

Guess it could just as easily have been widgets or turtles. I have loved birds, especially the aesthetic elements of long legged birds, ever since I was a very young boy. Hence the Blue Heron Gallery.

Anyway I get to the lake and I am on the phone with a friend who is recounting a story. I don't want to be rude but I see a beautiful bald eagle slowly cascading in circles down from the far mountaintop.

Hot damn. I told my friend that I needed to get off the phone but the conversation lingered a while. No matter, this was going to be a great day. Eagle off the bat. What a sign!

Wrong.

Except for a large committee of vultures overhead, that eagle was practically the only bird I saw all day. The buzzards would have to wait for another day if they were contemplating my sky burial.

One what might have been a kingfisher in my periphery but nothing else.

I hiked for three hours, the Osprey, Kumeyaay and Oakdale trails and got skunked. Weird.

I wrote something about intermittent rewards a few years ago that bears looking at again.
I started reading and researching this phenomenon and it led me to B.F. Skinner's work and the science of behavioral psychology. Behavioral psych tells us that there are several types of rewards, constant, progressive and intermittent being the three of them we will discuss today.
To understand a constant reward let's imagine a lab chimp who pushes a lever and has a Kool menthol fall down the chute every time. For some reason, being constantly rewarded is a bore. That is why some wealthy people get a little crazy with too many options.
The second reward type we will discuss, progressive, is when the payout (and sometimes the work requirement) gets larger as you go along. Although this is a very powerful reward, people in progressive reward scenarios are said to get quickly desensitized and burned out. I am not exactly sure why and will have to do some further research on the matter.
The most powerful reward, apparently, is the intermittent reward, the reward that is sometimes granted and often never appears at all. An essentially random reward. You never know when you will get that hit. Intermittent reward psychology is the basis for gambling and for much of our addictive behavior.
If I went out looking for paintings and found one every day, it wouldn't be very fun after a while. But not knowing which rock to turn over and when I will win that prize, that is a truly enchanting proposition and what drives my business, seller and customer alike. The good old intermittent reward.
A pursuit where you know you will find quarry every time out soon fails to deliver any satisfaction at all for the hunter gatherer.

So I bombed. But I did see a lovely eagle, just didn't memorialize it and I got in a hell of a peaceful walk without getting bit by a rattlesnake.

I did see these two dragonflies engaging in an activity that may very well have been sexual in nature. Not sure. Not real up on these sorts of things.